Keyboard player Alessandro Bertoni is originally from Italy, although he is now based in Los Angeles, and this 2019 3-track 15-minute-long EP is his second solo release following from his 2013 album ‘Keystone’. I am somewhat surprised it has taken so long for a follow-up, as that featured guitarist Brett Garsed, Ric Fierabracci on bass and Virgil Donati on drums. It was produced by Derek Sherinian (ex-Dream Theater), who even gave Alessandro access to his own keyboards at Beachwood Manor Studios, which is quite some statement. I certainly enjoyed that one, so was pleased to see this one arrive. When Alessandro was playing at a festival in Europe, he met Steven Wilson’s/Steve Hackett’s drummer Craig Blundell and they stayed in touch. He then offered to provide drums on any future recording which led to the idea of the EP. Bertoni then asked bassist Fierabracci to become involved again, and this time brought in Brazilian guitarist Andre Nieri while he used analog gear for the keyboards, including acoustic piano, Moog, and even a real Hammond B3 and mellotron provided by Derek Sherinian.
It is really interesting to see the name Sherinian being involved, as Bertoni has a very similar approach in many ways, and just by listening to this I knew I was going to have to mention Sherinian as an influence. Whereas some keyboard players make it all about them when it comes to solo albums, others believe their roles are to provide the songs and the framework, which may actually mean they are not always front and centre, and that is definitely the case here. There are times when it is gentle and reflected, and many others where they are all letting rip with each of the four musicians driving the music along. There are some wonderfully intricate passages where everyone seems to be in front of the others and no-one is going to sit at the back. For a keyboard album it contains a lot of guitars
Alessandro told me his aim with this album was to blend the heavy and dark tech prog with bluesy hard rock and fusion elements, and while it may not be nearly as dark as he imagined it might be, he has certainly nailed every other element. The use of classic keyboard sounds also provides a wonderful warmth while staccato bass and drums combine with some superb guitar where Niero displays the fluidity for which he is so well-known. This is apparently a precursor for an album that is going to come soon, can’t wait. 8/10 Kev Rowland